Do you have a Web site to help generate interest in — and revenue for — your small business? No? Then you're not taking advantage of one of the best marketing tools available today. You're also not alone. According to Gary Chen, an analyst for the Yankee Group, 20 percent of small businesses with fewer than 100 employees do not have a Web site.
Owners of some small businesses, particularly the small mom-and-pop stores, don't see the value in it, said Chen. However Jim Collins, CEO of Affinity Internet, a Web site service provider, believes that the Internet can help SMBs grow their business and that "a Web site is just as important as a business card."
Create It Online drop-down menus offer a variety of industry-specific categories from which to choose.
(Click for larger image).
But for many SMBs, it's the cost and complexity associated with designing, building and hosting a Web site keeps them offline. For those reasons, Affinity Internet developed its Create It Online — a Web-based site builder designed with small business in mind.
Create It Online, part of Affinity's ValueWebsolutions, is a wizard-driven program designed to guide you through the process step-by-step. The result, said John Enright, Affinity's vice-president of marketing, is a professional-looking, advertising-free Website.
The company claims that Create It's main advantage is that it helps the customer through the creative process. The program, said Enright, walks you through a series of screens where you answer questions and enter information such as your type of business. Create It then generates a navigation list that relates to a particular industry.
"For example," he said, "if you own a car dealership, the program would populate the navigation menu with categories like Home, About Us and Cars on the Lot."
Since most people aren't professional designers, they often struggle with choosing a decent color scheme for their sites (screaming neon yellow anyone?). Enright said that Create It saves site owners from perpetrating a design catastrophe.
Create It Online provides matched color palates so that you can't pick colors that don't look good together.
(Click for larger image).
"The program prevents you from choosing incompatible colors and fonts, and it also auto crops, sizes and scales images. We handle the creative end so that small-business owners can focus on the site content, and put their time into how they want to represent themselves."
For people interested in selling online, Create It includes an e-commerce component that supports up to 10 products. Enright said that people who wish to sell more than 10 products can do so by upgrading to an Affinity WebStore, which supports an unlimited number of products and costs $20.00 a month.
What You Get
The Create It Online site builder comes in three flavors: a two-page package, a 20-page package and an unlimited-page package. Check the Web site for specific details. Depending on which package you choose, you receive some or all of the following:
- One POP3e-mail account
- More than 100 design templates — with matching sets of compatible font, color, style and layout choices
- Stock images
- WYSIWYGeditor — to create and maintain Web content
- Image database/editor — manage, browse, select and upload images and multimedia files
- Navigation tools
The company claims Create It can be used by people with varying skill levels — novices and advanced programmers alike. The site supports advanced Web features without requiring additional plug-ins or downloads, said Enright. These features include:
- Flash animation — create animations with customized messages
- Online surveys
- Lead-generation forms
- Message forums
- Hit counters
- News tickers
- Photo albums
When you register your site's domain name with Affinity (cost: $6.95 per year), you receive a two-page Web site and the Create It Online site builder for free.
You can upgrade your site to support an unlimited number of Web pages for $9.95 per month.
If you purchase any of Affinity's hosting plans (i.e., your Web site resides on Affinity's servers), you receive a 20-page Web site and the Create It Online site builder for free. A business-hosting plan costs $24.95 per month, an e-Commerce plan costs $49.95 a month and the Professional plan costs $99.95 per month.
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com
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